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Best Island in Hawaii for Food?

Which Island is the best for a chowhound? And WHY?

If you had 10 days in Hawaii and only wanted to spend it on one Island, but do a 2/3 island hop for food, what two islands would you pick?

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  1. I would pick and did pick Oahu, In my humble opinion the Honolulu/Waikiki area will give you the widest variety of restaurants vs. any of the other islands. Also a day trip up to the North Shore is awesome. We spent 10 days in Waikiki, and Hawaii is paradise.

    1 Reply
    1. re: swsidejim

      I will heartily agree with swsidejim. I've dined on almost every side of every island, except Molo'kai, and Oahu has the best restaurants. That said, each of the other islands has some good food at all levels, but Oahu is unsurpassed. The Greater Honolulu Area has it all from tiny local haunts, that just have great food, to world-class restaurants that would easily have atleast one star, if they were in Europe.

      There have been some recent threads with reviews of all level of restaurant on Oahu. I hit some of the high-end spots (plus North Shore) in http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334698, and there are many, recent reviews of other types of spots. A Search should yield a full spectrum.

      I've found good restaurants on all islands, but nothing to match Oahu.


    2. For food, definitely Oahu. Lived on Oahu & Kauai.

      Love Alan Wong's, Sasabune (love Sasabune!) and had stellar meals at Roy's (in Hawaii Kai) time & time again though it is a chain I guess. Yanagi sushi is also great.

      For really good cheap local food, find Side Street Cafe and order the fried pork chops, misoyaki chicken (no skin if you like), Big Island smoked pork and a side of rice. Yummm.... Always a must go every visit. Open late serve food late. Lot of chefs go there after closing time. When David Rosengarten was there doing a Food Network special he even raved about it to the audience's delight.

      KC Drive Inn has awesome chocolate ono ono shakes too (chocolate peanut butter). I wish there was a Curry House around the corner too!

      No other island even comes close to Oahu for food.

      On Kauai, Beachhouse has great food and just gorgeous sunsets. Dondero's & Tidepools are great at the Hyatt but still Hyatt restaurants. There is a Roy's in Poipu village as well.

      My favorites on Kauai are the local spots. Koloa Fish Market for great seared ahi, poke & plate lunches. Seuoka's for super super local stuff like loco moco, mahi sandwiches, burgers & fries. Hamura Saimin (super, super divey) for saimin & lilikoi pie. Jo Jo's for shave ice in Waimea. A walk up counter spot in Hanalei in Ching Young village just east of the Big Save for kalua pork sandwiches & semi-healthy plate lunches (changes but stuff like brown rice curried ahi dish).

      Wish I still lived there!

      2 Replies
        1. re: clee222

          What a horrifying bummer!!! How will I ever get another chocolate ono ono shake?

          Thought of some good Chinese food on Oahu. Sun Tek (great meals), Fook Yuen (great meals - open late - crepe desert place downstairs), Maple Garden (possibly my favorite - loved the won ton noodle soup with spinach & the Chinese donughts in a biscuit - soo. good), Panda (great dim sum).

        1. I've never been to any other island than Oahu, but, man, there's good food on Oahu!

          1. The food is good everywhere that's not tourisy. Oahu because it's the home of the biggest city, and Alan Wongs may be one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. Maui probably the worst because of the tourists, but anywhere you go, if you stick to fish and fruit you wont be disappointed. Best piece of pineapple came from where else- Lanai, which used to be a Dole pineapple plantation. (the food at both resports on Lanai is excellent, btw)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Quesera

              I will second the food, though from too many years back to be valid, on Lanai. There is also a B&B-style hotel in Lanai City, that was very good. It was owned and run by two brothers from Metro New Orleans - one the host, the other the chef. Last trip, they found out that my wife was both a chef and from New Orleans, and invited her into the kitchen to work on some recipies for introduction later. Unfortunately, we've not been back in far too long, but I'd say that there are definitely three (or were) restaurants worth dining at. The lesser restaurant at Manile Bay was good, though nothing above normal resort fare.


            2. Oahu - but of course it is a huge city.( Unless you go to the other side which is beautiful) The food at the international market alone.... I really like Maui. They have, as do all the islands, a real emphasis placed on local grown and local seafood
              . I have found that to be true of all the islands. It is not hard to find good food. Many talented chefs. Its a real melting pot of cuisines and is not cheap....

              1. No one has mentioned Kauai, now the focus of our trip. I'm also looking to take a cooking class on Kauai.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Seconds Please

                  See ccl111's post above. Kauai has some great places. The Beachhouse is a great experience. Great food and a view of the sunset, right on the water. Be sure to make sunset reservations and reserve far in advance. At the Hyatt, Donderos and Tidepools are good places. There is a Roy's as well. Finally, my wife and my favorite place for dinner was the cheapest place. It's called Brickoven Pizza located just outside of Poipu. Really good pizza for cheap and no need to dress up.

                  Finally, if going to Kauai I suggest you buy The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. Great reviews of restuarants, hotels and attractions.

                  1. re: Seconds Please

                    For a few higher-end Kaua`i restaurants, check out the first part of my previously mentioned post. Others have filled in many of the blanks recently with great lunch and breakfast recs, mostly near Poipu Beach area.


                    1. re: Seconds Please

                      I will be in Kauai in June and would also love to take a cooking class- have you found a place?

                    2. Without a doubt Oahu has the finest and widest selection of restaurants in Hawaii.

                      1. Due to the size of the population alone Oahu is a no brainer. It's like asking which burrough is the best to eat at. Oahu is just a very diverse group of eateries that don't really rely on the tastes of tourists as much (if at all) as the other islands do.

                        Keeping in mind that I've not been to Kauai, I think Maui is my 2nd favorite food island.

                        1. If you find yourself on Moloka'i, dining isn't particularly fancy, but if you want fancy, you're probably not going to Moloka'i. The attractions there are authenticity and freshness, and some of the best food you'll have is the fresh local fish, grass fed beef, and produce you'll make yourself. If you rent a condo at the Wavecrest, there are a couple of gas grills out by the pool where you can meet other visitors and some long time residents.

                          The best restaurant on the island is the Kualapu'u Cookhouse, particularly for local fish, steaks. Local types hang out there in the evenings, usually at the back tables outside, playing music and talking story. Don't miss the poke.

                          For excellent basic, authentic Filipino food, one of my favorites is Oviedo's, which has been in a storefront on the main drag in Kaunakakai for over twenty years.

                          Mana'e Goods and Grinds (formerly the Community Food Store) on the East side of the island has a great little kitchen that serves lunch in styrofoam trays from a window. My wife and I usually split a mahi platter and a teriyaki beef platter.

                          Hotel Moloka'i has the fanciest restaurant in terms of decor and service, but the attractions there are less the food than the setting right on the edge of the water and the live local music. Our favorite local performer is Lono, who has a regular gig there Saturday evenings from 7-10 p.m. Check out his CDs at http://www.lonomusic.com

                          Kanemitsu's Bakery is the source for the original Moloka'i style round bread, and the lavosh is also very good. If you go around back after midnight and bang on the door, you can get it hot from the oven with any toppings you like. It usually sells out by afternoon, so go in the morning, if you're not up for a late night visit.

                          The coffee plantation is very much worth seeing. The Malulani Estate coffee is often as good or better than anything you can find in Kona. If you're not fortunate enough to pay a visit, you can order it online from http://www.coffeesofhawaii.com/catalo...

                          Farmer's market is on Saturday mornings in town by the bank. The grocery stores often carry local produce, such as the fine Moloka'i Purple Sweet Potato (ube), as well as some local fish and beef. It's also worth asking around for the best sources of local fish. It used to be that local fishermen would sell their catch from the Chevron station near the wharf, but I don't think I saw much there last time we visited. If you drive out East, there's a papaya grove where you can gather mango and papaya. There are lots of fishing spots as well as fishing charters. I don't hunt, but I've tasted some excellent local venison, and there are also wild pigs. The Fish and Dive shop in town should have info about local fishing and hunting.

                          1. "If you had 10 days in Hawaii and only wanted to spend it on one Island, but do a 2/3 island hop for food, what two islands would you pick?"

                            I'd spend 7 days on The Big Island and three on Oahu. I guess I'll be the odd man out saying The Big Island is the better choice for hounds. Lots of great places on Oahu but IMO Honolulu is just another big city. Not my idea of paradise at all.
                            The Big Island has Coffee plantations, Macadamia nut farms and great farmers markets as well as the typical resort high end dining options. The thing I like about both The Big Island and Maui is the ability to find a piece of heaven that you can enjoy at least in semi-private assuming you don't travel in high season. I would probably go back to Maui just to eat at The Lahaina grill. On the Big Island grab a morning french press kona in Hawi then head over to Pololu Point or just set on the veranda at Kona Joe's in the morning and look at the ocean over the plantation.
                            The Big Island has great farmers markets and Kona Blue so there's lots of fresh Kampachi and plenty of chow options.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Fritter

                              I'll toss in a vote for the Big Island while noting that I've had little to no experience on other islands. From Merrimans and Daniel Thiebault's to the malasadas at Tex's to the restaurants at 4 Seasons, as well as the options mentioned above.